Notachance and Gericault Roque ones to watch in £100,000 feature at Warwick Racecourse's Agetur Classic Chase Day
IT'S Agetur Classic Chase Day on Saturday, one of Warwick's biggest racedays of the year, and ITV Racing will be there to cover an exciting card that includes three graded races, writes David Hucker.
Highlight of the day is the £100,000 Grade 3 Agetur UK Ltd Classic Handicap Chase, a recognised stepping stone for the Randox Health Grand National.
One For Arthur won the 2017 renewal and subsequently went on to win the Grand National in the same season. Last year saw a thrilling finish between Notachance and the grey Achille and trainer Alan King has been aiming the winner at the race again.
Notachance was pulled up on his seasonal debut in Newcastle's Rehearsal Chase at the end of November, but performed better next time when sixth to Enqarde in the Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock Park last month.
Achille has run more recently, finishing fourth in the Coral Welsh National on 27 December, for which he has been dropped 2lbs.
However, it may pay to look further down the handicap to an up-and-coming horse and one who fits the bill is Gericault Roque, still to win over fences, but who ran well when runner-up to Saint Palais in Newbury's Mandarin Chase last month.
With the Cheltenham Festival only two months away, there will be plenty of interest in the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs, won in previous years by The New One and Willoughby Court, who both went on to score at the Festival itself.
Gelino Bello has an alternative engagement at Kempton Park and Surrey Quest steps up in class after two novice hurdle wins, so this could go to Alcester trainer Dan Skelton's Elle Est Belle who took on the classy Jonbon at Newbury last time.
The winner of the Grade 2 Wigley Group Hampton Novices’ Chase will be eligible for a £25,000 bonus if they go on to win one of three novice chases at the Cheltenham Festival, namely the Turners Novices' Chase, the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase or the National Hunt Challenge Cup.
This is the first time Warwick has offered a bonus incentive which, if collected, will be split between the stable staff (£10,000), the owner and the trainer (£7,500 each).
Warwick's assistant general manager Tommy Williams said: “We are hugely excited about offering this bonus fund. Black Hercules did it in 2016 for Willie Mullins and Next Destination was narrowly denied in 2021 after finishing second in the National Hunt Challenge Cup.”
With a prize fund of £55,000, the race has, not surprisingly, attracted a quality entry headed by the 151-rated Threeunderthrufive, winner of three of his four chases to date.
Next highest rated are two Scottish-trained entrants, Corach Rambler, trained by Lucinda Russell, who is also entered in the feature race, and Doyen Breed by Sandy Thompson.
Skelton has two of the eight entries in the Class 2 Alder Demain & Akers PMS Oxford Edward Courage Cup Handicap Chase, run in memory of one of racing’s most successful owner/trainers who sent out a host of winners from his base at Edgcote near Banbury.
Last year's winner Sky Pirate would have to give 20lbs and upwards to his rivals, the best of which could be another course winner Brave Seasca, who is chasing a hat-trick.
Another race to take note of is the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle, in which the first six home will qualify for the final at the Cheltenham Festival. Irish horses dominate the entries with trainer Gordon Elliott having nine, including the 2020 final winner Sire Du Berlais, and Ronan McNally two.
It all gets under way at 12.40pm with the Start Your Racing TV Free Trial Now Novices' Handicap Hurdle over two miles and finishes with the Racing TV Free For A Month "Newcomers" National Hunt Flat Race.